Health Tips

How to Recover from an Ankle Injury

All it takes is a misstep, a fall or for you to land awkwardly on your foot to end up with a sprained ankle — or worse. Ankle injuries — which can range from a minor ligament sprain to a fracture — are incredibly common, and it’s not hard to see why.

The foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 tendons, muscles and ligaments. An injury can happen during any one of the 3,000-4,000 steps adults average each day. And it often does, with the vast majority of people experiencing some form of foot or ankle pain during their lives.

Also Read: Is Indoor Running Good for Toning Legs?

But how do you recover from an ankle injury? Most treatments are simple and can be done easily at home, emphasising rest and taking care of your overall body before gradually reintroducing movement to strengthen your ankle. However, more severe ankle injuries might require medical intervention, such as surgery.

Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation

This is one of the most well-known and highly recommended treatments for an ankle injury. Commonly abbreviated to RICE, this treatment focuses on resting the ankle, using ice to reduce pain and swelling, wrapping (or compressing) the ankle, and keeping it elevated to ease pain and throbbing.


When you injure your ankle, you might try to ignore the pain. When we’re so used to being on the go and having responsibilities, being forced to rest up and minimise movement as much as possible can be challenging. But pain is your body’s signal that something is wrong, so it’s vital to listen. Pushing through the pain, especially when you have a severe injury, can make the damage worse and prolong your recovery. It might leave you with ongoing pain and instability, even after treatment.


When using ice to ease your pain and reduce swelling, always keep your ice pack (if you don’t have one, a bag of frozen peas does the trick!) covered with a towel to reduce frostbite, and avoid keeping it on your ankle for more than 20 minutes every two or three hours.


Compressing your injury helps prevent swelling. When you wrap your ankle, you want it to be snug, but you don’t want to cut off blood flow. If your ankle feels cold, numb or tingly, loosen the bandage. If your ankle continues to feel cold or turns blue, seek medical attention, as this indicates that blood can’t reach the foot.


Elevation is all about keeping your ankle raised. This can help reduce pain and speed up healing by draining excess fluid from your foot. Ideally, your ankle should be just above where your heart is.

This isn’t as uncomfortable as it might sound. A great at-home solution is to prop your ankle up on several stacked pillows while you sit on the sofa or in bed. For the best results, keep your ankle raised even when you’re not using an ice pack.

You can also supplement the RICE method with over-the-counter pain relief medication like ibuprofen and paracetamol, which can help you manage your pain and decrease inflammation.

Restoring Strength and Movement in Your Ankle

After rest, it’s important to reintroduce movement and gentle exercise to build up strength and stability in your ankle and restore its range of motion and flexibility. Not doing this can result in your ankle stiffening and weakening.

Your physiotherapist will recommend various exercises to help you retrain the ankle muscles, which will support recovery and help prevent further injury. The exercises given to you are designed to do the following:

  • Improve ankle movement
  • Strengthen the ankle
  • Improve balance and control.

These might include tracing the alphabet with your toe, stretching the muscles to improve range of motion, and standing on one foot. Balancing exercises will only be prescribed when you can stand without pain.

If you can’t walk because you’ve sprained or broken your ankle, you may need crutches to help you get around. If you have a more severe injury, you may need to wear a support brace to provide stability or a cast or boot to immobilise your ankle as it heals.

When Do You Need Surgery?

Even more severe ankle injuries like fractures rarely need surgery and will likely heal on their own with rest and physiotherapy. However, if the ankle remains unusable or doesn’t heal, you may need a surgical procedure.

If the bone heals incorrectly, you may also need surgery to realign the ankle so that it doesn’t limit your mobility or posture over the long term.

When an operation is needed to repair a fracture, a foot and ankle surgeon will insert a metal plate with screws, which will hold the bone in place. You’ll also need to wear a cast for around six weeks, but having surgery will prolong your overall recovery, as it takes time for the ligaments and tendons around the bone to heal.

How Long Does Recovery Take?

The length of time it takes to recover after an ankle injury varies based on your injury and its severity. A Grade 1 sprain might heal in a couple of weeks, while more severe sprains involving a ligament tear — or even a fracture — can take several months, during which you may be in so much pain that you can’t put any weight on your foot.

Also Read: Home Remedies For Knee Joint Pain

Recovering from an ankle injury can be a long and painful process, but by following these tips, you’ll soon be running around — figuratively and literally — like your usual self.